For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Canadian; I’ve lived in Canada for over half of my life and currently attend the University of Waterloo. What should be known is my love for the game of basketball, having played it my whole life and, well, I’m writing about it now. When people hear the words “Canada” and “basketball”, the Toronto Raptors immediately come to mind. They are Canada’s team after all – #WeTheNorth – and in recent years, they have made a name for themselves as one of the best teams in the NBA.
Beyond their talent, the Raptors boast one of, if not, the best fan base in all of the NBA. Most other teams have cities or maybe states supporting them; the Raps have an entire country behind them. With Toronto in the NBA Finals for the first time in their 24 year history, the already rabid fanbase has gone completely ballistic with fans all across the country (and seemingly the continent) are backing the Raptors.
Well, everyone but me.
Yes, shocking, I know, but hear me out.
Before anything else, I am a LeBron James fan. He is my favorite player and the reason I started getting into and watching basketball the manner I do today. Though the Los Angeles Lakers obviously struggled this season, just a year ago, LeBron sent the Raptors packing, sweeping Toronto for the second straight year and eliminating them from the playoffs three years in a row. One might suspect that “LeBron” is the reason I dislike my “hometown” team. But no…that’s not quite it.
I have a fond memory of the Toronto Raptors from my freshman year of high school. I was at the ferry terminal, waiting to return to school from a rugby tournament. Being in British Columbia, basketball games occur earlier in the day – how I miss those Pacific Mountain Time days. On that late April day, I checked my phone to stay updated on the First Round playoff action. I scrolled through to see that the Toronto Raptors had been completely obliterated by the Washington Wizards 125-94 and had been swept. Most Canadians were upset and distraught; I just said: “That’s the Raptors for you.” But still, the team’s consistent performance issues are not why I don’t support them; it’s much simpler than that.
The main reason I’m not a Raptors fan is that everyone expects me to be one. Sounds silly, I know, but that’s really just it. Day after day, people assume that I will wholeheartedly back Canada’s team when I do no such thing; this Finals series actually poses an interesting situation as it features the teams I hate the most from each conference. When people hear that I’m not a Raptors fan, they appear to be hurt, insulted even, as if I’ve personally wronged them. Well, I, in turn, am offended by the notion that I would simply love a team just because they’re my local organization.
I pride myself on my in-depth knowledge about basketball and the NBA. I’ve spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours researching players – current and historical – records, titles, basically everything there is to know about the sport. Add my playing career into the mix, and in just about every sense of the phrase, “ball is life” for me.
I respect the passion and heart sports fans can utterly buy into their local team’s spirit. But I can safely say I’ve forgotten more about basketball than they know; this isn’t me being egotistical, it’s just how I truly feel. If you know nothing about a sport, by all means, root for your hometown team. It’s quick, easy, and allows you to learn and enjoy the sport with a large population of like-minded individuals. But I have earned the right to decide that I don’t want to cheer for the Raptors.
Sure, I have and currently like Raptors players. I’ve been a Kawhi Leonard fan since he came into the league; I greatly respect Pascal Siakam’s ascent to stardom as a fellow African; and who doesn’t love Vince Carter for putting Toronto on the map?
If you want to be a Raptors fan, be my guest. The team is having their best season in franchise history; they have one of the biggest stars in the world in Drake on their side. I almost understand why people lineup outside Jurassic Park at 6:30 am (almost). But please, don’t come at me as if I don’t know what I’m doing; it’s quite the opposite actually.